About a third of the photos depict a hometown spring phenomenon: the cherry blossoms around the tidal pool. It’s not the easiest subject to refresh, but Day’s approach produces some distinctive images. The photographer shot at night, as he often does, to achieve lighting effects that look oddly hyper-realistic. Long exposures turn the Washington Monument into a white slice through the sky and distant buildings into chains of light, while the pink and white of the flowers are enhanced by shadows.
Close-ups of individual trees that have been bleached out and positioned against single-color backgrounds ranging from soft gray to bold indigo are even more visually contrived. Sometimes arranged in diptychs, these images highlight gnarled trunks and knotted branches. They have been made in Mexico, Asia, the DC region, and other regions to demonstrate both the universality and individuality of tree forms.
Day has a particular affinity for Bangkok’s multi-layered clutter, which is displayed in playful photos of urban baobab trees that serve many purposes. Adorned with wires, cables and signs, and adorned with banners and ex-votos, each tree is overloaded with purpose and meaning. Where images of individual trees represent each as a single entity, these photos show that the baobabs are fully integrated cells of the total organism that is Bangkok.
Frank Hallam Day: Arbor/Real Until April 16 at Addison/Ripley Fine Art1670 Wisconsin Ave NW.
Flowers are traditionally found at funerals and grave sites, but these days some memorial sites are marked with stuffed animals and mylar balloons with fun faces. These pop culture artifacts are among the inspirations for Tom Holmes’ “Go Back to PartyCity,” an exhibition of paintings at the Von Ammon Co. Updating the classic memento mori, a reminder of mortality, the Tennessee artist depicts toys , ornaments and Halloween decorations. Many of these items are available from the party supply retailer referenced in the show’s title.
The subjects are often absurd, but the style is mostly realistic, with occasional expressionist flourishes. Several images, including a nighttime scene of a glowing jack-o’-lantern and its reflection in a window, are tightly focused, dramatically lit, and composed. Others are more random. The show includes a self-portrait in which the bearded artist is positioned under a depiction of a cartoonish skull mask. The disconnect is, as expected, shocking.
A few of the paintings hang on the wall, but most lean on folding chrome chairs (which mirror the smeared images) or balance on plastic jugs. The effect is to make the show more impromptu, closer to the appearance of the paintings when they are propped up in the artist’s studio. The jugs also highlight plastic as a motif in Holmes’ work, which features several detailed renderings of large sheets of brightly colored material. This is a different type of memento mori: plastic is cheap and perishable, but at the molecular level it is nearly indestructible. In one form or another, a Mylar balloon will outlive anyone who buys or just looks at one.
Tom Holmes: Return to PartyCity Until April 23 at Von Ammon Co.3330 Cady’s Alley NW.
Cianne Fragione’s images – mixed media drawing-paintings that include bonded paper and fabric – evoke the layers of history, both figurative and literal. They specifically suggest the weathered facades of century-old buildings in Italy, the American-born artist’s ancestral land. In the case of “Songs From My Home”, however, the visual inspiration had to be closer. The pieces in Fragione’s exhibit at the Neptune & Brown Gallery were made entirely in his DC studio over the past two years, as opposed to travel.
Fragione’s palette is heavy on pink, tan, brown and gray – shades of dry earth and weathered stucco – though it’s not limited to these. In this set of artworks, flecks of blue represent what the gallery note calls “rays of hope amid difficulties.” Pops of sky color are small but tangy, punctuating areas of soft color and texture.
Before turning full time to the visual arts, Fragione was a professional dancer. A sense of this vocation lives on in his paintings, which convey movement with free gestures brushed with paint or pencil over pigment. In images such as “Our share of riches is the scent of lemons,” these flippant markings lend immediacy to surfaces that otherwise seem timeless.
Cianne Fragione: Songs from Home Until April 23 at Neptune & Brown Gallery1530 14th St. NW.
There are two styles of abstract drawing in Geoff Desobry’s Waverly Street Gallery exhibition, which is named after two things, “Shadows and Dreams”. But the title only directly refers to the local artist’s set of 16 black-and-white photos, rendered in pastel and charcoal. Also on display are five pastels in which orange shapes float on blue-black fields. The two series are not so different in terms of means, but vary considerably in terms of impact.
Monochromatic designs appear more energetic and spontaneous, with smudged blacks and large areas of white that draw the viewer’s eye into compositions. In “Shadows and Dreams 7”, for example, several curved lines intersect at the bottom, while the top is open, as if waiting for the lines to twist north. The sense of the possible intrigues.
Although much simpler in form, color designs have a strong sense of depth. The most striking is “Valor”, in which an orange rectangle levitates, very slightly off-center. The oblong edges are soft, creating the illusion that the figure shines slightly. It’s just an orange box on a black background, but it shines like a beacon.
Geoff Desobry: Shadows and Dreams Until April 17 at Waverly Street Gallery4600 east-west road, Bethesda.